An absolute record mercato in Belgium, but at what price? “Consequence of clubs living beyond their means”

An absolute record mercato in Belgium, but at what price? “Consequence of clubs living beyond their means”
An absolute record mercato in Belgium, but at what price? “Consequence of clubs living beyond their means”

A record with a red border. The Belgian clubs collected more than 50 million euros in profit last winter. An amount that sounds rosier than it actually is, because the annual accounts are bleeding. “The clubs are forced to monitor this better,” sports economist Wim Lagae explains the massive urge to sell.

Never has a winter mercato been more lucrative for the Jupiler Pro League.

Our Belgian teams cashed 80.2 million euros this transfer period. A record sum thanks to the high-profile transfers of Gift Orban, Malick Fofana and Arthur Vermeeren, among others.

The back door in the JPL was already wide open, but it remained suspiciously quiet on the incoming side. For example, ‘only’ 23.5 million euros was spent to accommodate the many departures.

This brings the balance to a profit of 56.7 million euros. Only that in Argentina – about 63 million euros – is greener.

Yes, that is another record.

season income expenditure balance
2023-2024 80.2 million 23.5 million +56.7 million
2022-2023 69.6 million 27.2 million +42.4 million
2021-2022 36 million 26.2 million +9.75 million
2020-2021 40.3 million 21.9 million +18.4 million
2019-2020 60.7 million 21.9 million +38.8 million
2018-2019 37.3 million 13.2 million +24.1 million
2017-2018 41.7 million 23.5 million +18.2 million
2016-2017 51.3 million 38.2 million +13.1 million
2015-2016 17.9 million 23.2 million – 5.37 million
2014-2015 11.4 million 11.1 million +300,000

The fact that the green marker can be brought out at the Belgian clubs will please many accountants.

But the other side of the coin is much less shiny.

It is no coincidence that millions of expenditure have stagnated since the corona period and income has continued to rise.

“Belgian football is an industry that is living beyond its means,” shares Wim Lagae, sports economist at KU Leuven. “The clubs have to put their money where their mouth is.”

KAA Gent sold Fofana and Orban to Lyon this winter.

Red annual accounts

Because when we look at the annual accounts in Belgium, one color stands out: red. A cumulative loss of 200 million euros is expected for the past financial year.

“There are three main reasons why clubs wanted to sell this winter,” Lagae continues. “The tightened regulation, the rise of big data in major competitions and the momentum on the transfer market.”

Starting with the first. UEFA has expanded the well-known Financial Fair Play rules (FFP) to Financial Sustainability Regulations (FSR).

In concrete terms, these mean that clubs that play in Europe may make a maximum loss of 60 million euros over three years and may spend a maximum of ninety percent of the income on wages, transfers and agent costs (which reduces to 80% and 70% the next 2 seasons).

Clubs that do not play in Europe are not bound to a maximum loss and may make adjustments through capital increases. For the sake of financial sustainability, the equity of Belgian clubs must improve by 20% annually and be positive over five seasons.

“Clubs are therefore forced to monitor their accounts better. The Jupiler Pro League also wants more equity at the clubs in the future, as a cushion to guarantee continuity.”

Resale value is central to the hunt for top talent with enormous growth potential.

Wim Lagae

Major transfer deals to make the annual accounts a little brighter were made, including at Ghent and Antwerp. Yet such transfers of millions were a rarity in the past.

“We can thank the football pyramid for that,” says Lagae. “The advent of “big data” means that the top competitions are looking at football with a mathematical eye. Resale value is central in the hunt for top talents with enormous growth potential.”

These talents are now appearing more and more often on Belgian fields, as a result of a broader scouting network and professionalized youth activities.

“Arthur Vermeeren is an exponent of that. However, the right momentum must also be there. Just look at Nusa’s deal. Last summer Club Brugge received 30 million euros for him, now 7 million more, but the deal is canceled for the time being.”

What about sporty balance?

The right players, with the right potential, were sold at the right time. That is the conclusion that the clubs also made in order to gain more financial breathing space.

But what about the sporty balance? Isn’t it suffering from the record sales?

“It will be the challenge for clubs to make bargains,” says the sports economist. “The inflow of income cannot grow enormously in many areas – such as sponsorship, TV rights and ticket sales.”

Cashing in big on a top talent is possible. “This allows teams to decompose faster, but it can also lead to a loss of quality.”

Yet there is no reason to panic yet.

“The good news is that the 5 major competitions continue to look at “resale competition” Belgium with a magnifying glass. The investments in youth work will sooner or later continue to give face to our country.”

“But that takes time and sandwiches,” concludes Wim Lagae. And therefore also (even?) red annual accounts.


The article is in Dutch

Tags: absolute record mercato Belgium price Consequence clubs living means


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